Why Billboard’s Women in Music Awards Are Sexist

Courtesy of John Shearer/Invision/AP
Courtesy of John Shearer/Invision/AP

You may have noticed that Billboard’s Women in Music Awards are back, and they have already announced Taylor Swift as the 2014 Woman of the Year. The 9th Annual ceremony will be held in New York City on December 12th.

Like allowing people to smoke on airplanes, this is one of those things that seems like a great idea until you really take a look at it. In fact, this awards category is not helping women at all.

It starts with one big question. Where will Billboard’s Men in Music Awards ceremony be held this year?

Nowhere. These are just called Music Awards. See the problem?

Billboard seems very proud of the fact that they are honoring female musicians, but Billboard doesn’t need to honor female musicians. They’ve already earned the honor for themselves. Amazing women like Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Iggy Azalea, Meghan Trainor, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Charli XCX, Idina Menzel, and many more are currently tearing it up. The fact that we have to have a special category for successful women in music implies that it is still surprising that a woman could be successful in music. In 2014. A quick look at Billboard’s own charts will reveal how ridiculous that is.

It’s sort of shocking that this distinction was not created in the 1950s, but Billboard’s Woman of the Year Award was first introduced in 2007. Reba McEntire was the first recipient, for her success as a recording artist and her leadership in the changing industry. That’s wonderful, but why are those things female? Why wasn’t it called something else, like the Billboard Leadership Award?

This is the same kind of archaic logic we see in other aspects of our society on more serious levels, like the Michael Brown and Eric Garner protests happening right now. The most common chant among the protestors is “black lives matter,” and it is absolutely disgraceful that we still have to make a point of saying that. As New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated earlier this week, “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said. It should be self-evident, but our history requires us to say that black lives matter.”

Though music awards are in no way comparable to these tragedies, the logic is very important. If you look at Billboard’s Women in Music Awards in the same light, it’s almost offensive that women have a special ceremony, especially when there is no equivalent version for men. Maybe adding a Men in Music ceremony and a Man of the Year award would make it right, but maybe not. Maybe that’s still a bit of a step backward.

After all, are there any specific, physiological reasons male musicians and female musicians would need to be judged on different sets of criteria? The only scenario I can think of would be an award for highest or lowest vocal range, since men and women are anatomically different on that front. But, to the best of my knowledge, that is not an award currently handed out by Billboard.

There are some definite misconceptions about feminism, perpetuated, unfortunately, by both men and women. One of the biggest fallacies is that feminists are against men, or want women to have special treatment. In reality, true feminism is (or should be) about having equal rights among men and women, and treating everyone with respect, regardless of their gender. All reasonable men and women should be feminists.

Really, we should probably drop the word “feminism” altogether and just call it “equal rights.” But if we still have to have a separate awards ceremony to recognize females in the music industry, that’s going to be a long time coming.